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Prime minister to announce raft of new mental health policies

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  • Prime minister Theresa May expected to announce a raft of new mental health policies today
  • New measures include mental health first aid training for secondary schools, review into improving mental health in the workplace and extra £15m for expanding community services
  • Mrs May is speaking at the annual Charity Commission lecture, giving her first major domestic policy speech focusing on social reform
  • Her words will build on her comments on the steps of Downing Street where she said there was not enough help for people with mental health problems

Prime minister Theresa May will today set out a series of new policies aimed at improving mental health provision, including more than £80m of spending commitments to improve digital access and expand community services.

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In her first major domestic policy speech on social reform this morning Mrs May will say she wants to “employ the power of government as a force for good” to transform the way people with mental health problems are treated.

Speaking at the annual Charity Commission lecture in London, the prime minister will announce a package of measures aimed at improving mental health services in schools, workplaces and the community.

The measures will focus on early intervention for children and young people as well as launching a review into how to improve support for employees with mental health problems.

She is expected to say: “I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life.

“What I am announcing are the first steps in our plan to transform the way we deal with mental illness in this country at every stage of a person’s life: not in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities.

“This is a historic opportunity to right a wrong, and give people deserving of compassion and support the attention and treatment they deserve.”

Mrs May’s speech builds on her comments outside 10 Downing Street after she became prime minister in July, when she said there was not enough help for people with mental health issues.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has taken on the mental health ministerial portfolio himself and told LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal in October children’s mental health services were the “biggest single area of weakness in NHS provision”.

The cross-governmental policy plans set to be announced include:

  • Offering every secondary school in the country mental health first aid training over three years starting with 1,200 schools this year as well as trials to strengthen links between schools and NHS mental health teams;
  • Appointing former chairman of Halifax Bank of Scotland Lord Dennis Stevenson and Mind CEO Paul Farmer – chair of the NHS mental health taskforce – to lead a review into improving mental health in the workplace;
  • Launching a review of child and adolescent mental health services led by the Care Quality Commission;
  • Publishing a green paper setting out plans to transform services for children and young people at schools, universities and for families;
  • A ringfenced £15m fund to expand community support for people with mental health problems including new crisis cafes and community clinics, building on the £15m already used to create new places of safety;
  • Speeding up the delivery of new digital mental health provision worth £67.7m including an online service where patients can check symptoms and access digital therapy instead of waiting for a face-to-face appointment;
  • Launching a formal review into the mental health debt form which can see patients charged up to £300 to prove they have a mental health problem; and
  • Supporting NHS England’s commitment to eliminate out of area inpatient placements for children and young people.

The £15m fund for community-based services will be taken from existing Department of Health budgets. Number 10 said the new digital package will be funded through the £4.2bn NHS technology pot announced by Mr Hunt last year, apart from £3m from NHS England to pilot digital improving access to psychological therapies. It is yet to be confirmed when the new digital services are expected to launch.

Number 10 said it will also consult with employers, charities and legal experts about discrimination protection in the workplace, which currently only applies where mental illness is classed as a disability – when the illness persists for more than year.

Mr Farmer and Lord Stevenson will report back later this year. Mr Farmer told HSJ the new workplace review will build on the recommendations on improving mental health in the NHS workforce already set out in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

He welcomed Mrs May’s announcement and said mental health should be at the “heart of government, society and communities”.

He added: “The proof will be in the difference it makes to the day-to-day experience of the one in four who will experience a mental health problem this year.”

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